“***Description is spoiler for Binti #1 and #2***
Binti has returned to her home planet, believing that the violence of the Meduse has been left behind. Unfortunately, although her people are peaceful on the whole, the same cannot be said for the Khoush, who fan the flames of their ancient rivalry with the Meduse.
Far from her village when the conflicts start, Binti hurries home, but anger and resentment has already claimed the lives of many close to her.
Once again it is up to Binti, and her intriguing new friend Mwinyi, to intervene—though the elders of her people do not entirely trust her motives—and try to prevent a war that could wipe out her people, once and for all.
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
“Even back then I had changed things, and I didn’t even know it. When I should have reveled in this gift, instead, I’d seen myself as broken. But couldn’t you be broken and still bring change?”
The Night Masquerade concludes the Binti trilogy, and I couldn’t wait to read it. The first two books were engaging, entirely unique, and full of sociological depth. I was not disappointed by the third. It was an ending that I couldn’t have predicted, although now it makes perfect sense. I felt like I grew alongside Binti, understanding her struggles and learning her lessons.
The story starts where the second book left off: Binti has learned that her family is in danger. She has just had an ancient, advanced capability of her DNA activated, and her preconceived notions about the people whom she did not know were hers have only just begun to crumble. A member of that community named Mwinyi accompanies her back across the desert as she tries to reach her family before it’s too late. The journey back tests her even more than the journey out.
When they finally arrive back in Binti’s world, her home is burned and her community is on the brink of war. As a master harmonizer and the person who is easiest to blame for the discord, Binti knows she must convince everyone to set aside ancient, forgotten transgressions in order to save countless lives.
I wish I could tell you more without ruining the book, because there is so, so much more.
“’Ah, that explains why you’ve never seen an Icarus,’ he said. ‘They’re large green grasshoppers who like to fly into fires. Then they fly out of the flames and dance with their new wings of fire and fall to the ground wingless. The wings grow back in a few days. Then they do it again.'”
There are so many great themes and layers to this book. Among them are a sense of self, identity, and home; prejudices and learning to be open-minded; culture and belonging; duty to your family and heritage; and so much more.
I particularly loved the symbolism of the otjize (a clay mixed from the earth) and Binti’s struggle with it. The women in her culture cover their skin and hair with otjize at all time, and it is considered shameful and indecent to be seen without it. Throughout the book, Binti has it on, then off, then on, then off. Part of her wants to set it aside, and part of her can’t let it go. There’s so much to unpack there, especially from a gender perspective; if you’ve read these books, I’d love to talk about it with you.
“My rage stayed and I was glad.”
I also loved that Binti really began to accept—even embrace—the rage that had become a genetic part of her body and mind. She really reclaimed her anger as a piece of herself, her whole self. It became something that just was, something that could be directed or ignored or used a fuel for good. I am all about reclaiming things that are “supposed” to be negative and showing that it is always possible to create good from something you inherently are.
Nnedi Okorafor’s style is different from everything I’ve read before. There were some moments in which she’d explain the characters’ reactions before describing what caused them, which threw me off a little, but I always found my way back. But her writing is always powerful, unashamed, engaging, and purposeful.
Highly recommend, my friends.